Russian Football Federation Blog
‘There is no black in the colours of Zenit’. It was a slogan written on the shirt of Zenit fan who invaded the pitch during UEFA Cup game in August 2004. It was also an unwritten transfer policy. Actually, there were few trials and contract talks – I can mention Ze Roberto and Baffour Gyan, Asamoa’s brother – but no coloured footballer has ever played for Zenit.
Club managers had always considered that fact a coincidence but the fans were clear: no blacks. Dick Advocaat won Russian Premier League, UEFA Cup and European Supercup with Zenit but was told that a possible transfer of, say, African player will not be tolerated. When Italy U21 played with Russia U21 in Saint Petersburg, fans welcomed Mario Balotelli, whose move to Zenit was the big rumour back then, with banner ‘Balotelli, we don’t want you here’.
But all things come to an end. Zenit had grown its first dark-skinned player in the youth system. Brian Idowu is fast and skillful centreback of Zenit U19 squad. His parents came to Saint Petersburg, where Brian was born, from Nigeria. He might be the first to break the unwritten rule, because to the fans, as Ronald Reagan put it, ‘he’s our son of a bitch’. Yes, there is a concern that Idowu couldn’t make it to the first team, but he’s the one who finally made that infamous slogan irrelevant.
There isn’t anything remarkable about Russian football right now except the one thing: we’ve got a plenty of free-kick masters this season. Four gameweeks have passed and four excellent free-kicks went into the net.
Y’all have probably seen the stunning free-kick from CSKA Moscow’ Keisuke Honda in Champions League game against Sevilla. This was a straight but tricky shot just into the body of goalkeeper so he couldn’t hold it. Honda did that in Russian Premier League too.
Another free-kick taker is Belarus defender Dmitry Molosh of Sibir Novosibirsk. He scored 8 goals in the First Division last season and got the first one in Premier League a week ago. This guy doesn’t care much about the distance.
Jose Mourinho is a serious man. He has found some time between Serie A games to visit Moscow and watch the Champions League surprise team, CSKA. Moscow side played against their city rivals Dynamo, and the game ended in goalless draw. Not much to see, but at least he did it.
His opponent, Leonid Slutsky of CSKA, enjoyed a thriller at Stadio Olympico, but that’s not all. Extravagant Russian coach has attended a ‘culinary fight’ organized for CSKA players. Just look at him. That’s why Jonathan Wilson suggested he have the look of a manager cast by the Coen brothers.
Krylya Sovetov Samara, the only non-Moscow club that has never left Russian Premier League, is suffering. Club debt is about 10 million dollars, the president has just resigned and the reserve team has finished the recent game with 9 men on the pitch. And the deadliest circumstance is Catch 22: transfer period has been extended until April 8th but Krylya has no right to buy new players because of unpaid debt. There are about 20 footballers kicking around at the Krylya’s training camp, but none of them allowed to help the club. What a grin of destiny.
But you can always rely on fans. They had started gathering money to cover the debt – surprisingly by giving blood. Two of the nine men were considered eligible in that ‘Blood for Krylya Sovetov’ action. Together they got 216 roubles, that is actually about 7 dollars and a half.
Well, that would be enough to play somebody at least for a minute.
New Russian football season starts on Friday night. Here are my predictions for final standings – a little bit assuming, of course, but hopefully not so far from being true.
1. Zenit Saint Petersburg
The most solid line-up. Great Italian coach. And the new president of Russian Football Union is actually ex-Zenit boss who won the league in 2007.
2. Rubin Kazan
Great Turkmen coach. No, really, Kurban Berdyev is the man behind the two league titles and victory over Barcelona in Champions League.
3. Lokomotiv Moscow
The best stadium in Russia. Lots of money spent on transfer market. Oleksandr Aliyev of Ukraine and Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria, two key players, hold Russian passports.
4. CSKA Moscow
Leonid Slutsky, the most promising Russian coach. Alan Dzagoev, the best young player. Keisuke Honda (€6 mln), the most expensive signing.
5. Spartak Moscow
Four Brazilians and lots of young guns – altogether they are strong but totally unpredictable. Very poor goalkeeper.
6. Dynamo Moscow
Totally renewed line-up. Konstantin Sarsania, the best financial manager in Russia. Young, but old-fashioned coach (imagine Harry Redknapp in his 40s).
7. Saturn Ramenskoe
Experienced side, lots of players in their 30s. Extremely young (34) and promising coach.
8. FC Rostov
Lots of good players for reasonable money – at least enough to make the top half.
9. Amkar Perm
The same as FC Rostov. But one place lower.
10. Terek Grozny
Strong political support. Will fix up few home matches.
11. Tom Tomsk
Remember that coach behind Cameroon at World Cup 1990? He is now in charge of poor Siberian side.
12. Spartak Nalchik
Yury Krasnozhan, the immanent coach of what’s-his-name squad, will keep the place in top flight.
13. Sibir Novosibirsk
Newly-promoted side from the heart of Siberia. Will secure the promotion because of good defense.
14. Krylia Sovetov Samara
Totally in debt. Half the players are from reserves. But they have never left the Premier League.
15. Alania Vladikavkaz
Dishonestly took the place of FC Moscow. Will be punished by relegation.
16. Anzhi Makhachkala
No strikers. No midfield. No future.
Sorry for not posting a while – I was covering Winter Olympics in Vancouver. By the way, I didn’t miss the chance to buy Whitecaps jersey instead of Crosby’s, which, from now, comes with bad memories. If you know what I mean.
Well, back to the Russian football. Rubin Kazan beat CSKA Moscow in the Russian Supercup game on Sunday. That could have been a fifth Supercup for CSKA, so they were ready to keep the trophy for ever. But Rubin, which obviously became a power side in the last two years, stole the victory in style. The only goal came from the mistake of Russian international goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
But I’m telling you a story of two robberies. Two weeks ago Russian sports headlines were all about Moroccan defender Youssef Rabeh who joined newly-promoted club Anzhi Makhachkala… for ten days. Rabeh, who was once convicted for drunk driving, and his teammate Todor Timonov of Bulgarian side Levski Sofia were transferred to Anzhi. After a week of training Rabeh called sick, went to club hotel, stole Timonov’s wallet, got lost for five days and then popped out a statement in Bulgarian newspaper that he’s retiring. At 24 years of age. With 2000 euro in cash. What a punk. And you know, I think that was a payback for that prank.
Pretty soon Rabeh decided to play again and joined Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan.
Thursday afternoon in Moscow. Minus 15 degrees Celsius. A billboard with David Beckham on it suddenly appears on the wall. ‘We have rejected him’, it says. You rub your eyes. And again. Then you start to wonder what the hell does it mean?!
Well, it’s pretty complicated. Zhemchuzhina Sochi is a small club which played in Premier League from 1993 to 1999, disbanded in 2003, then raised from the ashes and has been promoted to First Division last season. And now they are rejecting world class football stars.
The secret is that Zhemchuzhina are from Sochi, the city of 2014 Winter Olympics. This is there the money is now, even for the football club. They wanted to reach Premier League this season and in that case spent big money on the publicity – but in a very strange way. Zhemchuzhina has bought 8 pages in 8 issues of Sovetsky Sport newspaper for the club promo. They also paid Evgeny Dzichkovsky, Sport Express journalist, to write a book ‘Orange Mood’ about club revival. Now they spam a Russian capital with the Beckham billboard.
And if he’ll want to sue them, there will be more publicity.
Maybe you’ve heard of Luciano Spalletti’s famous long, exhausting tactical trainings – where to stand, when to run, how to play etc. Zenit players did. Whey prepared to swallow a lot of tactical stuff on pre-season camp but, all of a sudden, were taken… in the swimming pool.
Vladislav Radimov, former Zenit and Real Zaragoza player, now the team administrator, told media that was for faster recovery. Well, I definitely see them doing that trick during the forthcoming season. Just look at the Zenit stadium.
The smallest football club from Moscow has pulled out of the Russian Premier League due to termination of investment from MMC Norilsk Nickel. Seems that Alania Vladikavkaz, 1995 RPL champions, will be ready to step in.
What a pity. Though FC Moscow was a kind of ‘anachronism’, as Jonathan Wilson discovered in 2007, this club has the right kind of attitude – passionate and modern. There are some extraordinary things to remember about them.
Club management found out that the winter training in South Africa would be cheap and fun, unlike dull Spain or Turkey. No other club in the Russian Premier League ever has the guts to do such a thing.
FC Moscow once has four Argentinians in the squad – Pablo Barrientos, Maxi Moralez, Maxi Lopez and unforgettable Hector Bracamonte. He learned enough Russian to write and sing songs!
Number of supporters was always the problem but they always were the good ones. No violence, no banner stupidity – but remarkable actions like ‘Take your mommy to football game’. And cheerleaders, of course.
Three managers of Spartak Moscow were put under the curse of FC Moscow. Alexander Starkov was fired in 2006 after 3-3 draw where Spartak was 3 goals up, Vladimir Fedotov was sacked in 2007 after harmful defeat and Michael Laudrup in 2009 also lost a crucial game to FC Moscow and left Russia one match later.
What a relief for Valery Karpin.
Imagine yourself coming in the office on, say, 27th December and realizing that you’ve been fired for not working your guts out on Christmas and Boxing Day. Rather unexpected, isn’t it? So it was for Lokomotiv Moscow Georgian midfielder David Mujiri, who didn’t show up at the training ground from 28th to 31st of December – just like all other players. Because the team vacation was due to 8th January.
Seems that it was a set-up by the club – even if they wanted to see Mujiri training on the New Year’s Eve, as Lokomotiv president Nikolai Naumov claimed, they should have fined him, not fire. I know they had reasons to be dissatisfied with him – Mujiri spent last season recovering from an awkward leg injury caused by his own car in the garage. He was in the very poor form, gained weight and still continued to obtain one of the biggest salaries in the team. But you just don’t set your own players up with this kind of Stone Age attitude. You just don’t.